Houthi militia sources say their fighters stopped Ali Abdullah Saleh's armoured vehicle outside the embattled capital Sanaa and then killed him. The likely impact of Saleh's assassination on the civil war and regional proxy war in Yemen is unclear.

A file picture of Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
A file picture of Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. (Reuters Archive)

Houthi rebels have killed  former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, foes and supporters said as a video emerged showing what appeared to be Saleh’s body.

Houthi-run Masirah TV announced the assassination, calling Saleh the "leader of the traitors." Until last week, Saleh was in a fragile alliance with the rebels. It gave no further details.

Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has urged Yemenis to unite against the Houthi rebels, describing them as "Iranian militias" and a "nightmare." Houthis overran the capital in 2014, finding an ally in Saleh who was deposed in 2012. This alliance faced opposition from the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in the country in 2015, causing a proxy war.

A senior official with Yemen's internationally recognised government confirmed to the Associated Press that Saleh had been killed. And Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television quoted sources in Saleh's party as confirming he had been killed.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior member of Yemen’s General People's Congress (GPC) party confirmed to Turkey's Anadolu Agency the death of Saleh.

The party member told Anadolu Agency that Houthi militants had shot and killed Saleh after his car was stopped near Sanaa, en route to his hometown in the Sinhan district south of the capital.

According to the same source, Houthi militiamen stopped Saleh’s motorcade some 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Sanaa, before taking him to an unknown location and shooting him.

TRT World's Nafisa Latic reports.

Houthis hail victory

The leader of Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels says his forces have killed the country's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh for his "treason." Saleh had recently broken ranks with the Houthis, and had publicly called for the Saudi-led coalition's support.

Abdul Malek Houthi, in a lengthy speech aired on Masirah, described Saleh's killing as a "historic defeat to the forces of the coalition," referring to the Saudi-led alliance of Arab states fighting them.

Without mentioning Saleh by name, he said that he knew about Saleh's communication with the coalition and his efforts to turn against the Houthis. He added that he had sent several warnings to Saleh.

"We have notified the leader of the traitor and criminal militias to retract, be wise, to stop his militias from continuing committing crimes," he said, "Today is the day of the fall of the conspiracy of betrayal and treason. It's a dark day for the forces of the coalition."

TRT World's Jon Brain has more.

Saleh's assassination follows change of alliance

Saleh's apparent death comes after he announced on Saturday the end of his alliance with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, with whom he has jointly ruled the capital for three years.

The 75-year-old strongman ruled Yemen for more than three decades.

Saleh remained in the country, however, and continued to wield power from behind the scenes. His forces allied with the Houthis after they took over Sanaa in 2014, despite the fact that as president he had gone to war with them on more than one occasion.

The rebel alliance splintered last week, setting off heavy clashes between the Houthis and Saleh's forces. 

TRT World's Abubakr al Shamahi reports on the impact the death will have in the war-torn country. 

Civilian casualties

Earlier on Monday, Houthi forces blew up the house of Saleh in Sanaa as fighting between the former allies intensified in the capital, residents and medics said.

Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed Houthi positions for a second day in support of Saleh.

The Saudi-led air campaign, backed by the US and other Western arms and intelligence, has killed hundreds of civilians but has failed to secure the coalition any major gains in the nearly three-year campaign to restore Hadi to power.

Saleh loyalists lost ground on the sixth day of heavy urban combat with the Houthis, with three hospitals reporting a toll of at least 125 killed and 238 wounded over six days, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

Sanaa residents reported intense fighting overnight and into the morning with families cowering in their homes as explosions rocked the city.

Coalition air strikes hammered Houthi positions in an apparent bid to shore up Saleh's forces, witnesses said.

Re-alignment of forces

The re-alignment of Saleh's forces with the Saudis would mark a significant turn in a war that is part of a wider struggle between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The bloodshed has compounded the woes of one of the Arab world's poorest countries and left at least 10,000 dead as hunger and disease have spread.

At the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the warring parties to stop all ground and air assaults. He also called for the resumption of all commercial imports into Yemen, saying millions of children, women and men were at risk of mass hunger, disease and death.

Saleh, who dominated Yemen's heavily-armed tribal society for 33 years before quitting in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings in 2011, and the Iran-backed Houthis had made common cause against Hadi loyalists.

But they vied for supremacy over the territory they ran together, including Sanaa, which the Houthis seized in September 2014, and their feud burst into open combat last Wednesday.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies